I'm overqualified, but still worth hiring
June 15, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm interviewing shortly for a job for which I'm clearly overqualified. If you've done this, how did you approach it in the interview?

I've been out of work for over a year and need to be working. I'm kind of old, I'm paying college tuition, and our savings are depleted. This is a job I've done before over several roles in my career, but I'd be happy to commit to it. The salary is below my range, but that's OK. The vibe I've gotten over the phone is very wary -- you'd be bored, you've done this before, you wouldn't get to do any of the neat things you've got on your resume -- and I need to figure out how to overcome these concerns during interviews.

I do want this job. I'm not looking for any advice on that score, only help with overcoming the company's concerns that I'd skip out the first chance I get.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you need to find a way of stressing that you know it's a step down without sounding desperate.

The normal issue with overqualified people is how long you'd [want to] stay. If you feel comfortable saying that you're not a short term person and want the role for some time come right out and say it. It's the biggest sticking point, IMHO.

Another issue is that the interviewer may feel embarrassed (at the poor salary or lowly role) - in which case you need to be enthusiastic about it. Nobody wants to hire someone and almost feel like they need to apologise for doing so.

A third issue is this thing about dynamism. You say you'd be happy doing it, but they may be looking for someone who wants this role badly, and who is going to push the boat out as they do it (long hours, super keen etc) and for whom merely being happy plodding along isn't the right profile.

Finally, the person interviewing you may be threatened by you. Exude docility.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:38 AM on June 15, 2010

You've gotten the interview, which is key. You need to project a persona that is professional, but not so professional that you're going to make people feel uncomfortable. You say you're "kind of old" - you have to project younger than that.

Try to turn the interview into what you can bring to them without overselling yourself. Ask them what their biggest needs are. Point out that since you won't need to be trained in the job, there will be a negligable learning curve, so you'll be contributing immediately, and able to add value in the area where they have needs. Tell them that you're most interested in finding a job where you can put down roots, that your focus at this time in your career is stability and not advancement, that you'd like to hone your existing skills and while you would always want to do what was best for the company and as such wouldn't turn down an offer of advancement, you're not in a phase where your goal is climbing the career ladder.

If you can say all of these things in a calm, even voice, it will help you. But that's tough when you've been out of work for over a year. You can't seem desperate.

Finally, if none of that works, you can try brutal honesty: "Ms. Hiring Manager, I'll be frank with you: Fubar Widgets is an excellent company. I'm looking to do good work and be a strong contributor. I'm viewing this position as a destination, and not a temporary stopping point. I'm not a serial job hopper and don't intend to start to be one now. Yes, I've done this job before several times, but I'd be delighted to commit to it."

Then all you can do is hope that they believe you.
posted by micawber at 8:43 AM on June 15, 2010

Well, in all fairness, would you actually skip out on the job if a more challenging one came around? In this economy, companies are looking for folks who are in it for the long haul, not necessarily to take a job for the time being just to work. With that said, this definitely does not match up with most unemployed worker's situations; many are willing to take jobs they are overqualified for to fill the gap.

My advice is to be honest with them. Sure, you'd be overqualified, but wouldn't that also ensure quality work? You would probably require less on the job training, etc. so definitely play up the aspect that if you got the job you'd hit the ground running with little learning curve (which equates to time effectiveness which equates to money saved in terms of the company)!

If they are still hesitant, and depending on your industry, you could even play the "well, hire me as a contractor" card. There would be less risk involved for the company (because they would have you 'temporarily', and could still look to fill their open requisition for the job), you would have temporary work, and would still have the luxuary of looking elsewhere. Sometimes you just don't know unless you ask.

Good luck!
posted by floweredfish at 9:07 AM on June 15, 2010

Find something you'd be really excited about -- sell that you'd be motivated. "I've done Systems support for many years, but never in a place whose mission was X, and at this point in my life, a meaningful mission is the most important thing to me."

Make clear that you're satisfied with the salary range. "Having a job that I feel confident I can succeed at so I can leave at 5 pm and leave work behind -- that piece of mind makes this salary worth it to me over the long term."

Talk about your commitment to finish tasks you undertake. You won't jump ship for the first better offer because you would make a commitment to stay for X time or finish X task.
posted by salvia at 9:27 AM on June 15, 2010

Reading over people's comments on how to present yourself, I'd say the most important are eagerness, flexibility, and an ability to listen and respond (somewhat like "docility" above, but in my view it's more about flexible responsiveness than passivity -- not overly set in your ways due to your experience).
posted by salvia at 9:39 AM on June 15, 2010

salvia's ideas are great, and that's the approach I'd take. You basically have to find a way of sounding sincere about your very high interest in this job, without saying "I need a paycheck and this would be convenient for me."
posted by Philemon at 9:48 AM on June 15, 2010

I'm paying college tuition

If you're the one whom the college tuition is for, simply explain that in your current situation in life, you want a position you know you can do without having to worry about if it's challenging/dynamic enough becuase you know you need to balance the job against the rigors or grad school. If they're worried you'll be bored, just tell them that your intellectual stimulation comes from outside the work environment, thankyouverymuch, and for the foreseeable future your primary concern is to find a position that you know you can do that will cover your bills.

Eventually you will be qualified for something more challenging and, given the right situation, that may be at the company you're interviewing, but it is far enough off in the future that you're more concerned with steady work that you are insanely competent at.
posted by Doohickie at 10:43 AM on June 15, 2010

"I've done this job before and I love it. I'm mature enough in my career that I don't see it as a step down to do this job, rather an opportunity to do something I like, rather than something I'm expected on my career path. This is the best of all worlds for the both of us: you get top talent at a bargain, and I get to be happy."

Don't say: I want to do the job beneath me so I can leave at 5.
Don't say: I want to do the job beneath me because it won't interfere with grad school.
Don't say: I want to do the job beneath me so I can be on autopilot.

@Micawber is the guy to listen to.
posted by kjs3 at 11:13 AM on June 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also, unless you're working for Shitheels Ltd, another good line is something to the effect of, "I'm aware that this job is within my capabilities, but I am interested in who I work for, as well as what I do. Your company is [x, y and z, fabulous, dynamic, purple, whatever] and seems to have a healthy and interesting work culture with a focus on team-work/work-life balance/corporate citizenship/whatever - and that's something that I really value."

Find out in the interview why they like working for the company (hopefully they do!), and then tell them (not in so many words), that those are the same reasons you want to work for the company, not just the job.
posted by smoke at 5:13 PM on June 15, 2010

Yeah, actually, I'd like to flag my earlier answer as not so great; kjs3 has it.
posted by Doohickie at 10:26 AM on June 16, 2010

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